We haven't seen him in a while, and this particular joke has been in my head for months. (As you can see from the fact that we are on the train, this is supposed to go at the front of the book, near the strip in which we first meet and the Mayflower one.) It is not only in bad taste; it is also colossally obscure, in that "Christmas cards from patients" is a reference to a freakout Freeman had late in his career, during a talk he gave in which he showed off three lobotomized children. The doctors in attendance reacted with hostility. Finally Freeman dumped out a box of about five hundred Christmas cards that he had brought with him, challenging the other doctors: "How many of you get Christmas cards from your patients?"
We know about this incident from two participants: Walter's son Paul, who was one of the doctors in the audience, and Howard Dully, who was one of the lobotomized kids.
I may have to rewrite this comic to give myself the bad joke, because I may decide it's unfair to assign dialogue like this to a dead man I've never met. The dead man in question, though, drove around in a vehicle called the Lobotomobile, and took pride in the number of people who fainted or vomited during his demonstrations, and made some pretty cruel jokes at patients' expense for the sake of getting a laugh out of his medical students. For me the least believable thing about this comic is that Walter would have known the name of the Jewish holiday that falls closest to Christmas. He died in the seventies, after all, before we as a nation decided to pretend that Chanukkah is a big deal.
Fun fact: Walter said that lobotomy worked better on Jews than on the general population, and guessed that this was because the tight-knit Jewish family provided a better postoperative environment. Another fun fact: I just learned from my father that he had a crazy uncle who was institutionalized in the fifties. An institution in the fifties, huh? "You know, Freeman said lobotomy worked better on Jews," I said. "Well, did he ever get out to Kentucky?" asked my father. I wonder that myself...